Punam Keller presents a nuanced view of when she believes the field adds to decision research in this PowerPoint presentation entitled: Celebrating the Absence of Fit:The Value of Field Research for Theory Development
#4 Read the Program
During the conference, you give the program a nice skim. You note how many great sessions you just don’t have the time to go to and you vow to read the abstracts on the plane.
But a week later the program is lost in a drawer somewhere.
Reading conference programs is the best way to be on the cutting edge on the field. Most websites post the programs, so misplacing the program is no excuse to not read.
Reading the program is potentially much more valuable than reading the latest issue of any journal. Journal research is 3 years old—conference research is much fresher.
#3 Email that Person
Whether it’s with a professor or a fellow graduate student, at every conference we almost always have a great stirring conversation and then vow to keep up that conversation. However, a week goes by and first email isn’t sent, and the contact seems to be lost.
Statistically, chances are that the best person to talk about your research is not at your school. Don’t let a potential great conversation pass you by.
#2 Focus on What’s Important
After a particularly stirring talk about research philosophy or a spectacular talk that combines field work and theory, you vow to focus on the important things. You vow to take a step back, evaluate your career, and start doing research that makes a difference.
However you return home and on Monday morning you dive into a data set and all that desire to really focus on the bigger picture goes away.
Professor Jim Bettman of Duke University advises, try to make the greatest impact you can and don’t always rush to the data. After a conference we have the momentum and inspiration to focus on big impactful research, don’t let momentum die.
#1 Talk More
At research conference you actually spend time talking to people about research. At school you spend time reading research or collecting data. But at conference you talk and it is wonderful.
At conferences we often find a ten minute conversation with a fellow researchers is more valuable than the tens of hours we’ve spent reading on that topic. Don’t dive into a book when you get back. Cultivate that conference vibe of going out to happy hour with friends and talking research.
There’s a reason we spend thousands of dollars on conferences every year, because face to face conversation about research is valuable. However, we often forget this in the comfort of our daily academic lives.
This doesn’t mean ignoring the necessary unfun pieces one has to do to have a successful career, but it means making passion the center of one’s career. The faculty also made the point that success comes first and foremost from passion.
Jim Bettman kicked off the day of advice by putting passion as the first principle of his research plan (passion-ownership-impact). Overall, the faculty converged on the idea that passion helps motivate good work and supports a good life.
This advice stands in stark contrast to the advice graduate students often hear about being strategic. One roundtable panelist noted that “One can be over strategic” and another suggested that doing a paper just for an easy “A” publication is bad idea. Other speakers noted that one should follow their passion even if that passion leads them out of academia and into industry.
Jim Bettman summarized that that passion is a way to inspire, drive, and sustain programmatic research.
Greeta Menon and Barbara Kahn recommend the 2 – 2 – 2 pipeline plan.
The professors advised students to have a pipeline of work with a few projects at each of the stages (e.g. review, writing, data collection). As a rule of thumb they offered that one should try to have 2 items at each stage.
Be Your Own Brand
Geeta Menon explained that ““People recognized you for you, not where you go, so you can be your own brand.” She mentioned how no matter where you can go you can use your own work and your own web presence to shape how others see you.
The Punam Keller Goal List
Keller explained that she sets specific academic goals each year (~5). The goals must have actionable steps. Then whenever she considers doing an activity she simply asks “does it fit the goals?” If it does not, she puts the activity and her “say no” list. She says this keeps her focused and her “say no” list allows her to feel okay saying no to things. She also keeps a personal goals list in a similar way and accordingly keeps a great work life balanced. “I have a fabulous life,” Keller told students on Thursday.
“Play around with Facebook Ads”
Zak Tormala recommends students look into the opportunities with Facebook advertising to test hypothesis with cell sizes approaching the millions. The use of field data was echoed by many throughout the conference. Punam Keller presented a nuanced view of field research. She said she uses the field when it is appropriate and the lab when it is appropriate. She advised against testing hypothesis in the field just because, noting “there needs to a reason” to use the field.
His guiding principles: “P.O.I.”
Passion – “Love it or leave it.” Only do things you believe in.
Ownership – Do your own ideas, not your advisors’. Or take your advisors ideas and make them your own as his former student Mary Frances Luce did by applying emotion to Bettman, Payne, and Johnson’s established decision research.
Impact – “Go for the gold.” Aim to change the field.
Reading advice: “Make generating study ideas a focus of whatever you’re reading.”
If you ever get the pleasure of getting a manuscript of yours reviewed by Bettman, you will find that nearly every paragraph has a comment about a potential future direction or connection to another literature. This persistent focus on generating ideas is what has allowed Bettman to be so wildly impactful. Though Bettman often appears very programatic, this should not be taken as sign of him not thinking diversely.
On what to follow up on: “Be ready for lightning bolts.”
Bettman said be open to new ideas and when you find one you are passionate about embrace it and then follow up on it. Inspiration comes first and then the programmatic process begins.
Caveat: “Not a once size fits all.”
Bettman indicated that even though be believed in his research style, there have been many people in the field who have succeeded in following a different style of research.
Funniest quote: Good research is like “ideas having sex.”
Bettman noted that good ideas come when ideas are pieced together with other ideas, when ideas are allowed to cross-fertilizer and different combinations of idea chromosomes come together.
Second funniest quote: “When talking about how Mary Frances Luce suggested emotion be brought into decision research, “We had never discussed emotion, or been emotional.”
This week we’ll be reporting (almost) live from the Annual Conference of the Society for Consumer Psychology in San Antonio, Texas.
Even though there will be two of us there, we won’t be able to attend every session and paper, so we’d love to hear from everyone attending the conference. We’ll be watching Twitter for good soundbites from presentations, but you can also leave comments here or email us at email@example.com.
Things we’d like to hear about:
- great career advice from professors and presenters
- outstanding research you think we really need to cover
- interesting quotes from presentations
We’re also planning a series of posts on how to get published and we’d like to hear what you would like to ask the editors of the most important journals in our field. Drop us an email or come talk to us at the conference – we’d love to hear your ideas.
See you in San Antonio!
Elina & Troy
The Society for Consumer Psychology Conference is this week. Here are four questions that we often worry about at conferences and four answers answered by quoting interviews from our Research Heroes series.
Which presentations should I go see? Should they be all in my topic of research or should I branch out? Hal Arkes recommends branching out and exploring many different topics in general, “Begin by sampling a wide cafeteria of courses, colloquia, readings, and professors.”
Should I emphasize theoretical contribution or practical application in my presentation? John Payne advises that, “As long as the criteria for tenure remain what they are at the top schools, young researchers will need to concentrate more on basic research.” This suggests you should focus on theory. However, it should be noted that nearly every Research Hero we interviewed emphasized how much they personally value practical contribution.
What if I find myself not enjoying research talks on my topic? Should I switch topics? Jonathan Baron suggests focusing on what you are passionate about. “Remember that research is a labor of love. If it doesn’t feel that way, do something else.”
When meeting with collaborators at conferences, should we decide to continue that weak project? Elke Weber suggests showing self-control and dropping it. “If something is not working out … give it a second chance, but then move on.”
Worried about your upcoming conference presentation? Here’s some advice paraphrased from some of the greats in our field. Try to avoid these four sins and you should be on your way to success. If you know of any other presentation sins that make you cringe add them to comments.
#4: Saying too much
As the common adage goes, “If you say three things you’ve said nothing.” A presenter is best off if they make one clear point, especially in a short 15 minute conference presentation format.
Jim Bettman advised at the 2012 Association for Consumer Research Doctoral Consortium that when communicating research presenters should tell a consistent straightforward story. He noted that it is a simple linear story, not a mystery story and not a story with many subplots. In sum he advised: tell the audience what you are going to tell them, then tell them it with data, and then remind them what you told them.
#3 The useless literature review
Conference presentations are about the presentation of new research, not old research. However, many presenters (especially young presenters) often are so excited by past findings they spend half their talk reciting papers from the 1980s.
Literature reviews should serve two main purposes: motivating the current research question (e.g. where are the gaps) and providing any necessary background info with which a diverse audience might not be familiar.
#2 Being too in love with methods and data analysis
Research presentations for the most part should be presenting new theory, clarification of theory, or application of theory. However presenters are often so proud of their methodologies or data analysis that they focus more on their stimuli and statistical models than on the actual research. Remember, three-way interactions are only interesting when audiences understand their potential theoretical importance.
#1 Failing to remind audience of anything
Audience members often get distracted through thinking about an implication of the finding, zoning out from tiredness, or worrying about their own later sessions. This means audience members are not hanging onto a presenter’s every word. If a presenter explains a method, an acronym, or a hypothesis only once, the audience members may miss it.
Thus, for the important items presenters need to remind the audience a little bit. For instance, before presenting a data slide a presenter should say, “Recall that we predicted that because people high in X are more Y they should be especially vulnerable to W, however if they were remind of Z they should not be as vulnerable.”